What Causes Damage to the Nerves of Arms and Legs?

Q: For the last 2 months, I’ve had sharp pain in left upper arm and similar pain running in left thigh. My feet get cold tingling running into left hand. I was smoking but stopped during last few days.
By: Richard Hancock


Sounds like the nerves supplying your arms and legs are affected. Such a condition in which nerves of the arms or legs are affected is called peripheral neuropathy.

Such a nerve may give a sharp, electric pain. Other symptoms like loss of sensation over an area of the skin or extreme sensitivity to any stimuli may also be there.


There are many causes of peripheral nerve involvements. These include:

  • Diabetes– At least half of the people affected by diabetes are likely to develop some type of neuropathy. Symptoms may vary. Some feel loss of sensation over areas including feet and hands (glove and stockings area).
  • Inflammation due to some infection, viral or bacterial, like herpes zoster. The virus affects the nerve causing symptoms. As it travels up and down the nerve it affects more portion of the limb involved.
  • Exposure to certain poisons and heavy chemicals. For example, in cancer patients treated with chemotherapy.
  • Alcoholics commonly have neuropathies. The reason for this is that they are poorly nourished and have vitamin deficiencies.
  • Vitamin deficiencies may cause nerve pain. This is so because certain vitamins like B1, B5, B12 are essential for healthy functioning of the nerves.
  • Tumor (cancerous growth) anywhere in the path of the nerve may press it and produce symptoms. Such a condition is diagnosed on CT scan or MRI.
  • Any other systemic disease- Kidney disease, thyroid problem, etc.

You need to visit a doctor, a neurologist if possible, and get evaluated to reach a diagnosis.

Take Care,

Buddy M.D.

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